01/17/2012 01:49 pm ET Updated Mar 18, 2012

A Wilde Perspective on Money

Well over 100 years ago, the great spiritual teacher and literary genius Oscar Wilde, after visiting America, wrote, "Americans know the price of everything and the value of nothing."

Oscar Wilde's wisdom, insight and penchant for truth are as accurate and sobering now as they were over 10 decades ago. Okay, so maybe nowadays even the idea that we recognize the "price of everything" seems to be legitimately in question. But the "value" side seems to have deteriorated even more! Do we recognize the value of spending more time with our children or loved ones, or reading a book? We may see the value in personal accomplishments or being productive and "getting things done," but then again, we're talking about ego-based value... not exactly the "value" Oscar had in mind. I suspect that if he were here to visit us now, he would find these same words damning us with faint praise.

So, where and how did our value sensibilities get so polluted, diluted and distorted? Could it be that there is a connection between understanding our own spiritual worth and power and how we perceive the value and power of money? Another Wilde quote that takes us closer to this idea is, "Ordinary riches can be stolen; real riches cannot. In your soul are infinitely precious things that cannot be taken from you." How many of us relate to ourselves and value ourselves as infinitely precious? How many of us correlate our power with our spiritual identity, of being pure love and nothing else? I suspect that most of us relate to ourselves in the same way that we would a commodity -- that any value, power and worth we claim is the sum total of our materialistic possessions and our earning potential. From our perspective, if it wasn't earned, deserved and bestowed upon us, it has no value. When the truth of the matter is that as divine love, we do not have value, power and worth, we are value power and worth. And no one and no thing on the planet has the power to change that. Deserving and worthy is not even an issue. It never has been, and never really will be, because we do not have it -- we are it.

If we have not realized our own true authentic oneness with value, power and worth, is it any real surprise that relationships outside ourselves, being less intimate than the one we have with ourselves, lacks clarity and explicitness? If we do not recognize our own value, power and worth, will we not simply project that ignorance out on to everything else in our lives? Then, whatever manifests outside of us, especially that which represents value, power and worth, takes the brunt of that perspective perversion: I barely make enough money to pay my bills... I have no value; I lost my job... I have no power; I didn't get the promotion... I have no worth. Or conversely, I made partner at the firm... I have value; I just bought a new BMW... I have power; I won the lottery... I have worth. What messages are we sending to ourselves about what is infinitely precious, and how does that affect our connection to the other aspects of our lives?

Oscar Wilde also said, "Life is too important to be taken seriously." Could it be that he is right? Could it be that we take life far too seriously, and that we are far too flippant and superficial in our consideration of our divinity? How might our relationship to money and ourselves change if we valued the evolution of our soul with the same diligence and commitment that we managed our stock portfolio? Oscar Wilde was so wise about the human condition, he used to say, "Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess." And that certainly sums up our relationship with money, even if your name isn't Bill Gates. Enough never seems to be enough. So much of our daily focus of attention is wrapped up and intertwined with our relationship to money. If we were enough within ourselves, would that point of reference change how we feel about money? Would that make a radical difference in our ability to manifest it, hold on to it and to use it wisely? Is the solution to our money issues going to be found within us or outside of us? I'm sure most of you are thinking, "Gee Vaishali, I'm not sure either. Give me a couple million dollars, time to enjoy it, and I'll get back to you."

Although Oscar had a privileged upbringing, he lived through stresses most of us would find unbearable. One of the many brilliant things about Oscar Wilde's life was his talent to maintain a pristine sense of humor no matter what life threw at him. He was unconditionally wise. He had many financial roller coaster rides in his lifetime, and what he learned from that was, "Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination." The English government confiscated all of his assets and personal property and threw him in jail. After being released from prison, he died in poverty. However, Oscar never lost sight of his divinity or his ability to take life lightly. He was very ill before he died and suffered great physical pain. He used to say, "I am so poor, I cannot even afford to die. Alas, I am dying beyond my means."

I know I have raised more questions than answers in this examination of money and spirituality, so in closing let me leave you with one more final Oscar Wilde jewel of wisdom: "When I was young I thought that money was the most important thing in life; now that I am old I know that it is." He was the master of insight, and the master of the facetious. I think that says it all.

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